For the first few weeks of the summer holidays, I took some time off to spend with my two children, Jon, 6 and Zoe, 4. We had lots of fun, and during the time I spent with them I noticed a few quirks of young children that are essential for running a great business but seem to be taught out of us as we grow older!
Understanding the context of a task and why you are doing it, gives great insight and empowers you to take the best action to achieve it. By just blindly following instructions you may not operate in the most efficient way, or if the instructions were ambiguous or unclear you may end up with the wrong outcome.
Pretty much every time I asked Jon or Zoe to help me out, I was asked ‘why?’ On the few occasions they didn’t ask, they didn’t do what I had intended!
When cooking dinner, I would ask for the dining room to be tidied, sometimes it was done, sometimes it wasn’t. If they didn’t ask why (or I didn’t tell them), some toys were put away but the table would still be littered with papers, pens, Top Trumps cards and so forth! If I were to request the dining room to be tidied ready for dinner so we can eat at the table, the result would more likely be a clear table. The rest of the room may not be completely tidy, but it is a start.
Asking for Help
Hands up who has struggled on with a task at work that they don’t know the answer to, don’t understand, or cannot do by the deadline? *sheepishly raises hand*.
Often, we don’t ask for fear of looking weak, incapable or unproductive. We can work harder…faster…(Scooter???). And who has found this successful? *tumbleweed*.
I’ve worked with more than one business leader who has (quite rightly) delegated tasks to their team. When they’re successful the leader delegates more to push, and challenge their team. Often this is to see how much they can handle. If you don’t ask for help when you need it or push back if it’s too much, then the leader will assume it’s achievable. You are not doing yourself, or your organisation any favours by taking on too much and being unsuccessful. Pretty much unanimously asking for assistance or challenging deadlines is seen as a strength of their team by managers. And help doesn’t mean doing it for you. Sometimes a second pair of eyes or a different approach is all you need.
Jon got stuck on a video game. He had been doing the same battle repeatedly for about 15 minutes and was getting nowhere. He asked me to help, and I pointed out he’d missed a step before Dr Octopus cloud be beaten. Soon Lego Captain America was on his way again!
Another day Zoe was doing some colouring and asked me to help. In this case, she was just getting tired and need a break…she just hadn’t realised a tasty banana would re-energise her!
Giving Up When Something is Futile
Many of you will know all about the sunk cost fallacy. You’ve spent several days on a presentation that just isn’t right, but refuse to throw it away when it has taken all week! You spend the next week correcting and amending, but somehow it just doesn’t flow. A better option could be to bin it and spend a day starting from scratch. But then I’d have wasted a week you cry? Better to have a great presentation after 6 days than a mediocre one after 10, right? And that week wasn’t wasted…you learned from your mistakes. Without that effort, you could not have produced the better presentation, in a day.
At Techinquest in Cardiff, there are dozens of interactive exhibits for young minds (and not so young ones) to investigate. Jon and Zoe couldn’t work some of them out, some were not fun, or even were too easy! When they gained all they wanted to, they finished. Of course, you can’t do that with everything in business, but remember that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Make sure you focus your efforts on what is adding the most value.
Enjoy What You Are Doing!
The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
Maybe not all of us love what we do, but that should be an aspiration. But if you hate what you do you’ll never be great at it. You need to have passion and drive to be a top performer. Of course, they’re tasks that no one enjoys doing (VAT return anyone?) but you should believe in the organisation and its goals.
I think anyone who has a 5-year-old, can relate to this…nah, I’m not doing that, it’s boooring! Find out what you love doing and become the best at it!
There may be reasons not to employ a 5-year-old, not to mention the questionable legality of it! However, sometimes we could all benefit from thinking a little more like a child; especially when it comes to having fun doing what you do!
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